'I’m in total shock' – Adam Kelly (17) crowned the BT Young Scientist winner

Adam Kelly was lost for words as he was announced the overall winner at the BT Young Scientist event.

The fifth year pupil from Skerries Community College won the top award at the 55th running of the competition, which continues to grow year-on-year.

Thousands of the country’s brightest budding scientists held their breath before they filled the RDS with defining sounds of applause and cheers.

As the overall winner, Adam (17) will be presented with a cheque for €7,500, the BTYSTE perpetual trophy and will go forward to represent Ireland at the 31st EU Contest for Young Scientists in Bulgaria this September.

He took home the top prize for his project entitled ‘Optimising The Simulation Of General Quantum Circuits’.

His project uses state of the art developments in the simulation of quantum circuits.

“I’m in total shock,” Adam said after he was announced as the overall winner.

“What inspired me was all my teachers and the people who helped me along the way inspired me.

“Of course I was hoping for the top prize, but I actually never thought I was going to win it.

“The first thing I’m going to buy with my winning money is an iPad for one of my friends that I made a bet with.”

He continued; “Quantum Computing is when you’re talking about the psychics of things that are very small like electrons. My project is about mathematically modelling quantum computers in the most efficient way.

“I sacrificed a lot of time over Christmas to work on this so I’m delighted all the work paid off.”

Proud mother Carol said described her son as “absolutely wonderful”.

“I’m so proud that I’m beside myself. Adam is absolutely wonderful, he’s just incredible,” she said.

“He has been doing this for a very long time. It’s his total passion and does science as a hobby – he just loves it.

“There’s no science background in the family at all, it just comes straight from Adam. Even his identical twin brother isn’t even into science.” 

Speaking about the winning entry, BT Young Scientist Judge and Chair of the Chemical, Physical and Mathematics Category, Professor Sean Corish, said; “Quantum computing is an emerging technology which represents a potentially significant advance in computing.

“Adam developed a tool to select the optimum algorithm for the simulation of particular quantum circuits, which may inform the development of a practical quantum computer, which is still at an early stage. This has implications across many areas, including cybersecurity.

“In addition, he used Open Source code to parallelise quantum simulation on graphical processing units that is significantly quicker than other available simulators and this work has already come to the attention of key industry leaders.

“Adam’s contributions are underpinned by a fluency in what is a highly technical and complex field which hugely impressed the judges.”

The award for Group winner went to Aoife Morris and Tianha Williams, both aged 16 and transition year students from St Aloysius College Carrigtwohill, Cork.

Their project was entitled ‘Developing an organic solar cell coating solution to mitigate fossil fuels usage by motor vehicles’.

The students were in the Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Category at Intermediate level.

This project develops an organic solar cell which can be used to partially power an electric car.

The students investigated and characterised different materials for use in the solar cell. Organic solar cells are thinner, more flexible and cheaper than inorganic solar cells. The use of solar cells reduces the need for fossil fuels in the automotive industry and addresses the global environment issue of pollution and climate change.

The Individual runner-up award was presented to Yasmin Ryan, aged 16, a 5th year student at St Andrew’s College, Dublin for her project entitled ‘Discovery of the Ideal Microenvironment for the Differentiation of hiPSCs into Islets of Langerhans’.

Yasmin was in the Biological and Ecological category at Intermediate level.

Her project focused on the generation of special cells called stem cells that can be used to generate pancreatic cells for the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes.

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A new number of proteins called “growth factors” were studied using specialised databases and were identified as candidates that be utilised to allow for the production of stem cells. Her observations have profound potential implications for the long-term treatment of diabetes and cell transplantation.

Finally, the Group runners-up award was presented to Danila Fedotov and Filip Caric, aged 17 and 18, respectively, 6th year students at North Monastery Secondary School, Cork.

Their project was called ‘A Wearable Device Which Assists Caretakers by Providing them with the Information on the Well-Being of Their Patients’.

The students were in the Technology category at Senior level. This project has resulted in the development of a wearable device that monitors the location and status of elderly people with a specific focus on those living with dementia.

The prototype is strapped to the upper arm and will communicate with a mobile phone app to allow caregivers to not only constantly monitor the wearers’ well-being, but also to alert in the event of a fall.

The annual extravaganza brought together some of Ireland’s brightest young minds as they competed to take home the coveted title of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist(s) of the Year 2019.

The number of project entries has almost tripled from 606 in 2000 to an impressive 1,803 in 2019, with entries submitted from across the island of Ireland.

A total of 56pc of qualified entrants are female, with a significant increase of 62pc in the number of girls qualifying in the Chemical, Physical, and Mathematical Sciences category this year.

A total of 10pc of entries for the 2019 Exhibition are from DEIS schools.

Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, said; “I am thrilled to be here at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

“The atmosphere of excitement, creativity and fun at the RDS this week has been incredible.

“I am particularly pleased to see so many young people tackling some of the most important issues facing us, from climate change to health, to technology, ethics and societal change. The students are a credit to their families, schools and teachers and they should rightly be proud of being here. They are a huge inspiration.

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“I’d like to thank everyone involved in the unique and brilliant event that the BTYSTE is; the organisers; the 81 judges; the dedicated teachers; and of course the mothers, fathers and families whose support is absolutely key to this.

“The entire competition is a credit to everyone involved, and brings to life the old adage of ‘mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí’.  I hope many people will make the trip to the RDS this weekend to see the exhibition and hear from the students.”

In his speech to open the ceremony, President Michael D Higgins praised the high number of projects on show that dealt with global warming, climate change and pollution.

More than 80 of the 500 looked at this issue, including the Food for Fuels: Air Pollution project by three students from Coláiste Iognáid SJ in Galway City.

President Higgins also pointed out the need for more women in science, highlighting that more girls than boys entered into the BT Young Scientist for the 12th year in succession.

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